Friday, December 30, 2011

god bless the ivanhoe

The Ivanhoe is on Main Street in Vancouver, and is right on the border of the Downtown Eastisde*. It has been full of real shit since I first moved to Vancouver in 1992. Not many places stick around like that in Vancouver. I hope they keep serving watered-down beer to people buying and selling stolen goods for many years to come.

An old man wearing a cowboy hat and rubber boots nurses a beer in the corner, mulling and mumbling to himself.

It's always been easy to start conversation in those places, and I always find the conversation gets very deep and personal very quickly. Compared to the rest of the city, which drains and saddens me, I find the patrons of downtown Eastside bars very refreshing. If you even manage to start a conversation in a pub in an affluent area, it will be a lot more superficial. Why is that?

*The Downtown Eastside is a very old area of Vancouver, and one of the poorest areas of Canada. It's well known for drug-use, poverty, slum houses, crime and violence. Main and Hastings is supposedly one of the most depraved-looking intersections in North America. Used syringes litter the alleys, as do lurching crack addicts scratching the ground, hoping to find a scrap more of something. Police cars and ambulances are a regular sight. But on the other hand, there is an incredible level of community participation and activism down there. It feels like a troubled little rural town trapped at the centre of a big rich city. I think it's a gem.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Road Trip to Stuttgart*

My last short film, "The Perfect Detonator", got accepted to a second major film festival. This time it's the Stuttgart Animation Festival.

There are so many festivals to choose from, and it's hard to know what to pick. My strategy was to spend the first year sending the film only to the top festivals in the world. I chose those by looking at the Academy Awards list of festivals that they draw their Best Animated Short contenders from. If you win at one of those festivals, you're longlisted for an Academy Award. Not that I expect that to happen, but it seems like they're probably good festivals.

I used to have a dream of winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short; then I realized that the Academy nominates a lot of films that I really don't think are the best of the year. Many of them are more on the easy-watching "cartoon" side of animation, with a simple message and lots of visual gags. It doesn't make sense to strive for a public perception of "success", when I would have to make films that didn't completely represent me to do it. That feels like an empty kind of goal that would probably never make me feel fulfilled. My next film is going to be even less festival-friendly, I think. That's going to be an interesting struggle- to make a film I'm proud of, but knowing that it's going to really challenge the audience.

The best thing about getting into a festival for me is knowing that a certain number of discerning folk appreciated the film enough to think it's worth sharing. That's a huge compliment.

The second best thing is that more people get to see my film. I made it to share, and I love showing it. Getting the film into big festivals means it's easier to get it into smaller festivals, and sometimes you can get the entrance fee waived, so it becomes cheaper for me to share my film.

Also, having big festivals attached to the film's name means I might be able to make better deals with distributors, and they will have an easier time shopping the film around.

*Title provided by Chris Huggins, Master of Wit.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I really like the shapes of the branches of big ol' Cedar Trees.

I have a new regular walking route - a 20-minute bikeride up a walking trail, then hide my bike in a little dip just off the trail, cover the bike with my green jacket, cover my jacket with fallen leaves, then follow a small creek up a steep hill.

Tonnes of deer trails, very little underbrush, ravens croaking far overhead. Lots of big ol' Cedar Trees.

Friday, December 16, 2011

two otters

This morning's sketches. 

The majority of my mornings' pages in the last month look very similar to this. The same withered Arbutus tree, a few lines denoting an otter, duck or boat, and a dozen words.

Every morning I sit on the same mossy stretch of stone looking over the ocean. I  find it so peaceful and captivating that I don't really feel like drawing a lot. I suppose the pages are a pretty clear representation of where my mind is at.

Here's the page from the day before. The water was moving strangely, like there was a giant mass moving underneath it:

...and the day before that:

I've been thinking a lot about fictional storytelling, image-making, and truth; how stories create myths and are really just one person's opinion. So they're kind of false. Could they potentially be unhealthy if you don't look at them critically? What's the point of a story? Shit like that.


Today I saw two bald eagles hunting a seagull. I'm sure we've all seen eagles and seagulls and other large birds chasing each other away from nests and territory, but this was different. They were chasing this poor gull all over the bay, swooping down and pecking at him, trying to fly above him and grab him with their talons, etc.

I'm fairly certain all animals (including humans) have an instinctive meter of efficient energy-use. In other words, we're not going to burn too many calories doing something unless it's going to bring us food and / or help us propagate our genes. These eagles were way beyond a leisurely chase. They were flapping their wings, swooping and climbing more than I've ever seen a bird of that size do. It wouldn't make sense to do that unless they really thought they were going to eat that gull.

I find that exciting because I often see bird carcasses on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, but I've never seen how it happens. Maybe this is how.

The eagles chased the gull around a point, out of my sight, so I never saw the resolution.


So was that a fictional story, in a way? Surely my opinion is in there. Am I dramatizing things a bit? Should I be dramatizing things?


Thursday, December 15, 2011

smoke is rising

Random Sketchbook Page featuring dialogue from the coffee shop.

I don't have much to say on here these days. Maybe I'll just stick to images for a while.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trails and lists

This island is covered in trails. I think you can get anywhere without being on a road more than 20% of the time. Some are people-trails, some are deer trails, and some are both. There are some very busy people-only trails, so I tend to stick to the deer trails. Some of the deer trails run fairly close to the people trails, so when people are walking by I have to stop suddenly and stand really still so they don't see me; I'm sure they'd think I was a wierdo, skulking around in the woods.

I'm worried about what will happen the first time a dog smells me and comes to check me out. "Cleatus! Cleatus, come! Cleatus, get out of the bush! What are you doing in there? Oh Jesus, there's a man standing there."

I would scare the shit out of myself if I saw that.


There's a lot of 'No Trespassing' and 'Private Property' signs around the island as well, but forunately I seem to hit them from the wrong side every time. By the time I see them, I'm leaving the 'Private Property', not entering it. That's another advantage to deer trails - they respect the terrain instead of imaginary people-lines.

I have a ridiculous amount of work on the go, but it's all fun. Here's the list:

- Brainstorming and storyboarding a short film proposal (collaboration with myself, a dancer and a live action filmmaker)

- Brainstorming and co-writing a proposal for a National Film Board project that I would co-direct with a documentary filmmaker friend from Bella Coola.

- Finishing a website job; the art is done, now it's HTML hell.

- Doing photorealistic dog animation in CG software, then adding visual-effects-y lines of energy and scent and making the dog kind of turn into energy. This project is with a local interactive video artist. I think it will eventually be a gallery installation.

- Writing proposals for Masters of Fine Arts applications. This is the most fun, I think. I have to write 2-3 potential projects I would undertake. I've come up with about seven, and I want to do them all. That's about a decade worth of intense and exciting experimental work written down on a single sheet. Feels so good to have all that stuff to be excited about. If any other animator-artist read the sheet, I'd have to kill them.

- Doing a 5' x 5' oil painting of a maple tree. Actually, this is the most fun, hands down. It's hard to beat the joy of painting.

Not to mention constant marketing and admin stuff. Good times!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Leaves With No Tree

If there is one thing that I'm finding visually fascinating these days, it's the shapes of trees.

I love the complicated silhouettes of deciduous treetops in the winter. Especially when there are a few leaves left on them. I'd like to just isolate the positions of the leaves and see what kind of pattern they make.


Lookin' arty!

I like this one.

There you have it. "Leaves With No Tree"